Since its creation in 2003, the South Beach diet has become an extremely popular weight-loss technique. On paper, it seems almost identical to the Atkins diet. Both restrict carbs, were developed by doctors and became best-selling books, but there are crucial differences. Like many diets, the South Beach diet requires commitment and determination to achieve success, so be sure that it suits your lifestyle and tastes. It’s also important to note that it is a commercial weight loss plan, not one designed by your doctor, so you should receive medical guidance before attempting it.

How it works
Unlike the Akins diet, which revolves around counting carbs, the South Beach diet is focused on the glycemic index (GI), or the effects of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels. Any carbs that rate higher than 55 on the glycemic Index scale are considered “bad” carbs that can lead to weight gain. The body digests these types of carbs quickly, causing a surge in blood sugar levels that then leaves you with an excess of insulin. The increased insulin levels then lowers blood sugar levels, which causes a boost in appetite as your body craves more carbs, thereby creating a cycle which can lead to weight gain and even diabetes. The South Beach diet asserts that, by decreasing your “bad” carb intake, you will help speed up your metabolism and improve insulin resistance which should lead to weight loss.

Phase one
The primary focus of the South Beach diet is on striking a healthy balance between the right carbs and fats. The diet course is divided into three phases, each with its own set of rules, meal plans and acceptable foods. The introductory stage, phase one, is the most strict and arguably the most difficult of the three. During this two-week period, foods containing “bad” carbs are strictly banned from your daily diet. These include fruit, bread, rice, pasta, sugar, potatoes, cereals, alcohol and baked goods. While some individuals may find these restrictions challenging at first, South Beach diet creator, Dr. Arthur Agatston says that this phase is designed to eliminate cravings and should become much easier over time.

Phase two
During phase two, you can begin reintroducing certain foods that were banned in phase one, though bad carbs are still strongly discouraged. The South Beach diet allows you to choose the foods you wish to add to your diet, but be sure to keep consumption of bad carbs to a minimum. A healthy rate of weight loss during this phase is usually between one and two pounds per week.

Phase three
The final stage begins after you reach your target weight and is the least restrictive of the three. Dr. Agatston notes that by this stage the diet should feel more like a way of life and be much easier to follow. Individuals are allowed greater freedom to make their own healthy food choices and can even indulge in some not-so-healthy options like chocolate from time to time.